sulfur dioxide
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The steam rises from the Martin Drake Power plant on Monday, January 8, 2018. The sulfur dioxide monitor that Manitou Springs spent thousands of dollars on last fall to monitor air quality in the city isn’t working, and officials are trying to figure out what to do about it. The monitor was installed in the fall over concerns that emissions from Drake Power Plant might be tainting the air in the small mountain community. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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Colorado Springs Utilities denies allegations in a lawsuit by WildEarth Guardians but was willing to settle nonetheless, spokeswoman Amy Trinidad said Tuesday.

The New Mexico-based environmental nonprofit had claimed thousands of Clean Air Act violations occurred at the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs. But the group agreed to the settlement, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver.

The Colorado Springs City Council approved a lawsuit settlement worth nearly half a million dollars without a public vote. The settlement is a source of anger, confusion and surprise for some council members..

The settlement:

- Pays the local nonprofit Energy Resource Center $275,000 to provide more of its free home energy-efficiency audits for qualifying customers.

- Promises to present options for 100 percent renewable energy portfolios that could be implemented in 2030, 2040 or 2050, which WildEarth Guardians program director Jeremy Nichols deemed a victory. Those options will come as part of the Electric Integrated Resource Plan provided every five years and next due by August 2020.

- Covers $150,000 for WildEarth Guardians' legal costs.

- Promises to install opacity monitoring systems that already were in Utilities' budget as part of its routine equipment replacement. Two systems, costing $43,000 each, will be installed on Drake, as planned, and a third will be installed at the Ray Nixon Power Plant in May for an estimated $40,000, Trinidad said.

Said Nichols: "We're not in this just to punish Utilities or to cause pain. We're in this to achieve an outcome."

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